The Extended Batke Family with Link neighbors

The Extended Batke Family with Link neighbors
Pictured in the photo: (Back row, standing, left to right) Herman Fredrick, Anna Batke, Henry Batke, Sr., Selma Batke, Henry Robert Batke, William Batke and Arthur Engler. (Front row/sitting, left to right) Donald Fredrick, Robert Fredrick, Katherine Batke Fredrick, Ruth Batke, Edwin Batke, Katherine Reck Batke, Jerald Batke, Edna Kwiatkowski Batke, Mary Batke Engler and Elaine Engler. Taken c1940, possibly to celebrate Henry and Katherine’s 30th wedding anniversary, October 22, 1940. Photo courtesy: Don Fredrick.

About Henry Batke and Katherine Reck

Heinrich Batke, the son of Martin Batke (c1848-b1912) and Anna Lock (1848-1939) was born in Chortitza, Russia on September 7, 1877. Also in Russia, Catharina Reck was born on October 14, 1890. Her parents were John Reck and Renata Shirk. Henry and Katherine married in Russia on September 22, 1910. On July 13, 1912, Henry, his wife and seven month old daughter, Katherine, sailed from the Port of Bremen, Germany on the ship Pallanza. They traveled to Quebec City, Canada arriving on July 28, 1912. They immediately left on a special Canadian Pacific Railroad train to Saskatchewan, Canada. The Batkes homesteaded in Lydiard, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan between 1913 and 1918. On October 3, 1917 Henry Batke became a citizen of Canada. Due to England's sovereignty over Canada, he became a British citizen. Finding farming in Canada difficult, on December 7, 1921 the Batke family, now also including Mary, William and Selma, left for Yellow Pine, Alabama. After the birth of Anna and much hardship in Alabama, the family moved to St. Joseph, Michigan where children Henry, Ruth and Edwin were born. Henry, a furniture maker in Russia, became a machine operator at the 1900 Corporation, a fore-runner of Whirlpool, in St. Joseph. After Henry's death on April 7, 1949, Katherine Reck Batke married Gustav Schmeichel in 1959. Katherine Reck Batke Schmeichel died at the Claremont Nursing Home in Benton, Michigan on October 28, 1979.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Story of Jacob and Maria Link - Part 8 of 9


Grandma would often hemorrhage from the nose and mouth.  The doctor came to the house, but couldn’t do much for her.  He would plug her nose, but then she would bleed from the mouth.

The doctor was especially good to the children.  He would bring them food and take them to dinners at the Whitcomb Hotel.  He told them, “you can come just as you are,” then he would take them back home!  One of these dinners was also a Christmas Party.  Mom got a doll that she felt that she was “too old for”, but she kept it anyway!

Unfortunately, Grandma did not live to enjoy their new lives and prosperity, as she had had a series of strokes, which eventually took her life.  Mom says in the interview  by daughter Sharon, that Grandma had three strokes.

Her last stroke happened on the sloped path coming down the Bluff, going home.  She fell and couldn’t walk or speak at the time!  A girl they were acquainted with found her, and she managed to find someone to get Grandma home.  Her left side was paralyzed.  She must have eventually gotten some of her speech back, because she would ask “whose hand is this, whose arm is this”?

The teacher had to tell Mom and the boys to go home, that their mother was ill.  Grandma could only look at her children: she died two days later.  Bonnie told about Uncle Ray going in and sitting with his mother, (perhaps they all took turns doing that), he was 9 years old at the time.  The children were all there when she died.  She was 34 years old.  I can only wonder what must have been going through her mind at this time, concerning her young children!

L-R: Raymond, Jacob Jr., Jacob Sr., Willie, and Fred Link, 1942
But she need not have worried!!  She would have been very proud of her children and their many accomplishments!  They became such good, loving, Christian people, dedicated to their husband, and wives and families!  All became naturalized citizens, and all four of the boys served in WWII at the same time with a willingness to give their lives for their adopted country!!

According to her obituary in the St. Joseph Herald Press of January 14, 1929:  The Trinity Lutheran Church, “the largest house of worship in the city”, was filled for the funeral, and Mr. Henry Batke was a pallbearer!  There was a prayer service held at the home at 1:30 p.m. with the funeral held at 3 o’clock.  The minister was Rev. Louis Nuechterlein. 

Besides Grandpa and the five children, she left her mother, two sisters, and two brothers, all of whom resided in Germany, according to the obituary.  Grandma was born in Pawlowka, Russia.  When she left Russia, we can be sure that she never saw her mother, or siblings again!

As far as we know, Grandpa never saw his parents or sister again after leaving Russia, and never saw his brothers who stayed in Canada again either, to the best of our knowledge!

Our mother finished the eighth grade and then stayed home to care for her four younger brothers.  This was something she had few regrets over.  Yes, she would have liked more education, but her brothers were more important!  There was a special bond between sister and brothers!  She had actually become their substitute mother!  They always called her “Sis”!   

The Batke’s had become close neighbors of the Link’s on Vine St.  Their final home was 714 Vine and of course the Link’s was 626 Vine St.  The houses were all quite close with small yards, usually fenced in.


Katherine Batke and Frieda Link, St. Joe, Early 1920s
It was only after I had started to write the Story of Jacob and Marie, and listened to Mom’s interview again, and she mentions the names of the Batke girls, who were Mary and Katherine, that these are the girls who were her friends that we used to go visit!  I always thought that they were school friends, but I now know that they were far more than that!  These girls had been through it all, from their beginnings in Canada, and for Katherine, Russia, as she was born there!

I never knew of the connection, even though I certainly had heard the name Batke many times and knew they were neighbors of Grandpa’s.  I didn’t know they knew each other in Russia, nor the story behind their friendships until I started writing this, (the first time)!   I had listened to Mom’s interview before, but just didn’t make the connection.!  It wasn’t until I started finding pictures in Mom’s old albums with the name Batke on them that it suddenly began to make sense, after all these years!!

Mary became the wife of Arthur Engler and they lived down the block by the Depot at 600 Vine St.  I only knew her as Mary Engler!  They had a daughter named Elaine, and she and I played together (I remember the game of “Jacks”), while our mothers visited!!  To get to Mary’s house, mom and I would walk on the sandy dirt path along the fenced in yards, and not far from the railroad tracks.

Katherine’s husband’s name was Herman Fredrick, having recently learned that his parents were also a Homesteading family from Canada, originally from Russia!  Herman  Fredrick came into the United States through Portal, North Dakota by train on March 8, 1922 with a birthplace indicated as Trunstahl, Canada.  A whole other story!  I knew him as Katherine’s husband Herman, and that they had a son Don who I was sure had become a Lutheran Minister.  But I do remember that Jeannie and Katherine came to visit Mom and Dad when they were building a new house near Allegan!  Our mother actually got a brand new house!  Grandpa and Uncle Fred were there too, building cupboards for the new house!  Sharon was little and Mom was expecting Frank.  This would be about 1956. 

When Mom was well into her 80’s and her health was failing, Dad was quite urgent that we go see Mary and Art Engler, so we did one Sunday afternoon!  They had moved to an  apartment, but they were still in St. Joe!  That was Mom’s and Mary’s last visit together!  I still had no clue!  Everyone must have thought I just “knew”!

One day, I got a short letter from Mary’s daughter, Elaine, asking if my mother was still alive, that her mother was asking about Mom.  I felt so bad having to tell her that Mom had passed away on December 19, 2004.

A bit of a twist in this story has taken place recently.  I came across Elaine’s address and decided to contact her, so I wrote and included a “rough copy” of our family’s  story, which is now totally obsolete!!!  She called me on the evening of July 25, 2009!  I had not spoken to her for about 60? years!  She had to tell me that her mother, Mary, had passed away also, which I was sorry to hear of.

I learned from Elaine that a child was born to the Batke family while they were in Alabama in 1922, named Anna, and she resides in St. Joe, Mi!  Our Uncle Jake was best man at Anna’s wedding!  There were three more children born to the Batke’s in St. Joseph:  Henry Batke Jr. born in 1925.  He also served in WWII.  Then there were Edwin A. Batke, and Ruth Batke for a total of nine.

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